I appreciate Mr. Boncher’s guest column in this past week’s paper, but his analytics don’t accurately represent the facts. One of the big reasons our total budget has increased is because of our increased enrollment, which he accurately highlights in his column. Another significant reason for the increase is due to the increased state aid that all public schools in Minnesota have received. Our expenditures have increased due to inflationary factors, and increased services and programs provided to our students and community.
It is not a fair comparison to expect or demand that our test scores have increased by 39%, when much of that increase is due to educating more kids as noted in the increased enrollment figures. Even with the unfair demand, it is fact that our graduation rate is consistently in the mid to high 90% range, our MCA scores consistently are the top in the Minnesota River Conference, and are among the top half in all of our surrounding schools. Our middle school was ranked as a top 5 performing middle school in the state in 2014, our elementary school was designated as a Minnesota School of Excellence for the 2017-2018 school year, and our high school was recognized as being 1 of 5 Minnesota districts named to the Advanced Placement Test honor roll.
Also, as I have stated at our referendum community meetings, another reason for the growth in expenditures is the fact that the school district is now running the CERC and all the community programs that go with that. Our school district runs recreation for the city of Jordan, which is not the case in all communities.
Additionally, the school district has increased revenue and expenditures because we are focused on continuous improvement for our students, and must continue to respond to new legislation. For example, since 2013, we’ve added counselors and social workers to assist with the increased mental health needs of our students, continued to provide quality programming for kids with special needs, increased preschool programming to include more course offerings and a reasonable busing option, built real world education programs such as our Summit Academy to provide our juniors and seniors with an opportunity to explore career pathways in education, business, marketing, medical careers, and construction trades. We continue to have some of the lowest class sizes in the metro, and have expanded diverse elective offerings for our middle and high school students. Our annual audit shows each year that we spend less money than the state average and of schools of similar size on administration, and just slightly more than the average of schools of similar size on regular ed instruction. We want to ensure that we continue to spend money on quality instruction for our students.
In terms of the local burden on taxpayers to properly operate our district, we are among the lowest in the state in terms of local operating authority. We currently do not have a voter approved levy in place. Our School Board has done what most, if not nearly all Boards have done across the state, and take advantage of a Board approved $724 per pupil local operating levy. The state average in 2018 for local operating levy authority was $1,202 per pupil, meaning the average Minnesota school district has $478 more per pupil in authority when compared to Jordan.
When you look at the work our district has done to educate students, and compare the shortfall in local operating authority, you can see that our schools are both financially efficient and performing well. Many would say the innovative programming, quality instruction, and new community education and recreation center with over 2,000 memberships and 4,000 members have all made the Jordan community a better place to live.